Being Environmentally Conscious by Seeing the World
It’s the beginning of January and as I write this, I’m sitting outside in glorious, warm sunshine that is shinning down on our back terrace here on the Mediterranean Sea in Spain. Days like this are what we live here for! Sitting in the midst of this beautiful nature that surrounds me, I’m reminded that the more we see the world, the more environmentally conscious we become. We hear a lot about why travel is so good for us and one of those positive impacts is how it’s stirring us into action to better care for our environment. Here are several ways that we have become more environmentally conscious and active by traveling more.
Global Exposure and Global Effects
We love how travel exposes us to other parts of the world, which means experiencing other people, cultures, and environments. It makes sense then that when traveling, we’re going to see how our planet is being negatively affected and what positive efforts are making a difference to restore our planet’s health. Seeing it first-hand is much more powerful and motivating than just reading about it though.
How many of us can relate to the power of reading about pollution, seeing the news report on it or talking about it, yet not actually being physically present where it’s happening in more evident ways? It’s one thing to hear, and even believe, that our seas and oceans are being polluted at an alarming rate by plastic and deadly toxins, that sea life populations are decreasing, and that climate change exists. Yet to visit the sea or even move abroad and see the plastic on the beach, to visit the fish markets in a Mediterranean Spanish town and learn about overfishing, and to experience the drastic changes in weather patterns compared to even a year ago… That is when it really sinks in.
The most powerful impression from this encounter with our planet is also by seeing how other people interact with their environments. All of us are connected with our environments, whether we and our societies realize it or not. We can all learn from each other by seeing the different ways in which we are negatively and positively interacting with our immediate environment. Then to take it a step further, we begin to see how a negative impact on the environment of one area is affecting other areas and the rest of our world. Pollution from cities on one side of the world will be carried on the wind and in the air to entire other continents. The fish along one side of the Pacific will be affected by garbage in the ocean flowing on the currents from thousands of miles away along a faraway coast line.
Traveling brings us face to face with how it’s all connected and intertwined; how we all are. We see and experience first hand how it effects our economies and societies along with our environment, today and into the future.
The People We Meet When Traveling
Above Image – Even though she’s been living in the US, we met and became friends with Isabella when she visited Denia.
We love to meet people anyways, so no wonder we love traveling – we’re meeting more and more people all the time. Traveling brings us into face-to-face contact with all different types of people, but it seems more and more that travelers are especially environmentally conscious.
Another friend we have made living in Spain is George of Circle Permaculture. Born and raised in Asia, he’s traveled the world and still travels extensively to teach his certified permaculture courses. It’s been amazing to learn more about permaculture from him and experience how passionate he is about it and the environment. He’s really taking action and doing something about real environmental issues today. And it’s not just a one-time thing. This is his lifestyle so it’s ongoing, sustainable practices and ways of living that he’s also passing on to others.
Growing Awareness of the Need for a Smoke-Free World
The more we see the world, the more we want a clean, smoke-free world. When we first moved to Spain, we lived in the historic center of Valencia. Over just a few months we could tell the distinct difference between bus and car exhaust and cigarette smoke, both of which become trapped in between the buildings and rises up to apartments on higher floors, like where we lived.
So when we first visited Denia for just a short weekend trip, we noticed and felt a significant difference in the air quality and how we felt. It was astounding. Now, we still love cities a lot, but from traveling more, we’ve become increasingly aware of air pollution and how cigarette smoke is contributing.
One of the saddest evidences that we see every day in Denia is practically in our front yard – the cigarette butt litter on our beaches and sidewalks (as if children’s lungs being poisoned black, people dying of cancers, and being toxically addicted to a substance is not sad enough). It’s like people think the beach or any public place is their personal ash tray; just one huge ash tray!
Cigarette butts litter is everywhere here and no matter how much rain, wind, and tides come, they’re still there. They get into the water, thus into the plant and sea life, and they continue to dump poisonous toxins into the ground and water. That stuff doesn’t just wash away or get eradicated in the atmosphere or water. It remains there for a long time!
“Some are under the assumption that cigarette butts are biodegradable. They are not. Cigarette butts are comprised of cellulose acetate. This is a plastic that may disperse into smaller pieces, however, will never biodegrade. This material also meets all city and state department’s guidelines for what is considered to be toxic waste.
According to No-Smoke, data derived from the Ocean Conservancy demonstrated that approximately 3,216,991 cigarettes or cigarette butts were collected from beaches and inland waterways all over the world in 2009, during that year’s annual International Coastal Cleanup (ICC). However, an astonishing 1,362,741 cigarettes and butts were removed from the waterways of the United States alone. There were other items in relation to smoking that were further collected from U.S. waterways, as well. They include 18,555 cigarette lighters, 74,399 cigar tips, and 36,397 tobacco packages.
In a study performed by Elli Slaughter of San Diego State University, a single cigarette butt that had traces of tobacco was introduced to a liter of water. This resulted in high toxicity levels, and the death of 50% of the fish in the water. This is the result of one little cigarette butt.” – QuitDay.org
And while it may sound like a broken record, let’s not forget about the obvious deadly effects of smoking on people who smoke and those around them who inhale second-hand smoke. It’s a crazy thing that the idea of going outside for a ‘breath of fresh air’ isn’t so easy now a days. Eating and drinking at a cafe’s outdoor terrace, sunning on the beach and taking a swim in the sea, even being in our own private home on the 7th floor (whether on the terrace outside or inside), the stench and poisons of cigarette smoke fill the air to be breathed even by those us who choose to not smoke.
The point here is – second hand smoke is deadly and that is the only true matter of ‘human rights’ in regards to the topic of smoking. It should, and will one day, be banned in the outdoors, period.
On the bright side though, if you’re not smoking you have more money to put towards traveling, better health for enjoying traveling, and when you travel you’re not poisoning other people and parts of our planet. That’s just a few ways that traveling and a smoke-free world go hand-in-hand.
A Different Take on Transportation
We’ve heard discussions about how travel can contribute to air pollution and thus other environmental problems. After all, the most commonly used modes of transportation are still fueled by oil and gas. Flying airplanes, driving a car, taking a train and riding a bus – they all are still powered by the things that contribute to air pollution. Yet we still believe that in many ways, travel can contribute in a positive way to improving our environment and taking better care of it.
The Spanish saying comes to mind, ‘poco a poco’ – little by little. Living a traveling lifestyle has taught us that we don’t need a car. Even when we’ve traveled in more rural areas of Spain, we’ve had a great time and done just fine without even renting a car. Not owning a vehicle also allows for more money towards traveling and things we enjoy doing, rather than towards ongoing fuel costs, maintenance and licensing.
The big transformation though has been in our mindset and perspective. We find ourselves caring a lot more about what developments are being made for electric cars and other innovative technologies for natural, environmentally-friendly energy uses. It has us realizing that being sustainable and environmentally friendly with our home and daily practices, is something very possible and achievable today.
While we enjoy not having a car right now, we may still get one again one day, yet we would rather wait for when we can get an electric car; preferably a Tesla! Now we’re excited too about Tesla batteries that can house natural energy and power a home.
When we first moved to Spain, people would say that there wasn’t the infrastructure for electric cars. But already in the years we’ve been here, we have seen major advancements in this. Already in our town of Denia, there are electric vehicle charging stations on various streets and at several businesses. It truly is happening!
What travel teaches us about transportation is that it can be so healthy for us too. Best mode of transportation? Walking! We walk on a daily basis, to get our groceries, meet up with friends, and see the area. Or we also ride bikes. For many people, these are activities only done for exercise. Yet for many others in the world, it’s their lifestyle. No wonder studies show that the oldest and healthiest people of anywhere in the world share the common trait of walking and riding for their daily mode of transportation. This along with natural, healthy diet and drinking red wine daily (we especially agree with that!).
Cutting Back on Consumption of 'Stuff'
I’ve come to think of living light as an art of sorts. It develops over time and if you really want to kick start it into high gear, travel more! By moving to Spain from Denver, we eliminated a lot of stuff we had. I had already done a major ‘purge’ you could call it, a couple of years before when I traveled by myself for 9 months. I got all my life belongings down to filling the smallest Uhaul van you can rent. By the time we moved to Spain, I took that down even further to just one large box of things that I kept in a storage unit with Eric’s stuff. Now, even that is all gone.
We find ourselves going through our wardrobe and donating clothes more often, applying the rule of thumb that if it hasn’t been worn in the past 6-months or is seasonal and already had a good 1-season run, it’s time for it to go.
Once again though, it’s in our mindset and way of thinking that we see the biggest changes: we’re a lot more conscious about what we buy. While I used to buy something just because it was on sale, now I tend to wait and spend a little more on something better quality, locally-made, and even environmentally and bodily friendly.
We refer to this as ‘cutting back on the consumption of stuff’, because to us it’s not about less consuming, but more about being conscious of what you’re consuming and looking at what things you want to consume less of. This beautifully leads to becoming even more aware of what you truly want to enjoy.
For us, experiences, meeting new people, traveling and being creative are things we want only more of. We can do that when we eliminate the things that are not needed and not important to our goals, like ‘stuff’. And yeah, there are plenty of things that we still like to have. We’re not saying that having things and stuff is bad. We love having our Mac Books, cameras and other travel gear that is part of our creativity. Believe it or not, Eric even travels with his own cooking spices and oils. It varies for everyone.
The next best thing about less stuff? Less production of things and less waste that pollutes our Earth. Something doesn’t have to be made brand new to be valuable. Upcycling is a great way that people are repurposing things and materials so they have a new life and use.
Your Take on the Environment and Travel
Can you relate to what we’ve shared about becoming more environmentally conscious by seeing the world? There’s amazing programs in so many countries that bring together travel and help our environment, in powerfully positive ways. Maybe you’ve experienced them yourself or have environmental insights to add from your own travel experiences. We would love to hear from you. Comment below or contact us anytime.
Created by Amalia & Eric
Founders & Producers of Move to Traveling
We’re Amalia and Eric – a traveling couple who moved from the US to Denia, Spain. With our combined skills of travel consultant/writer and artist/film producer, we share resourceful stories to inspire and support your travel dreams. Let us know how we can be of help.